Speaking at a post-National Day Rally dialogue with youth in his Sembawang constituency, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that “Singaporean as an identity is nothing much.”
Mr Ong had earlier said to a participant who had asked if the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others or CMIO model should be re-evaluated. He said, “we are far from ready to say ‘Let’s get rid of everything and just be Singaporean’.” He attempted to clarify the comment to the media after the dialogue and said:
“It doesn’t reduce the fact that we are Singaporean. But we also wanting to be identified as whether I am Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, or Others. And what I was trying to explain to, is if we are building a Singaporean identity, we must understand that Singaporean as an identity is nothing very much. Singapore as a country only existed only 51 years. Singaporean identity itself is rather quite empty. What fills up the Singaporean identity is the identity of the various races, and all the traditions and cultures that we bring forth and create the tapestry. That is the Singaporean identity that we are building towards.”
Another MP for Sembawang also chimed in to answer the participant and suggested that if there was no CMIO classification, there might come a time in the future where there may not be a minority candidate in parliament. He said that the racial classifications are important for Singaporeans to be “always conscious of each other and reach out to one another”.